Throughout this year, myself and 39 other staff at Bradford Council are undertaking the council’s Future Leaders Programme. We are the chosen ones from a pool of over 100 applicants, and I’m delighted to have a place. A schedule of learning has been set out to help us become, as the title suggests, leaders of the future. We are now one week into the programme, and here are my reflections of these early days.
Things were kicked off a week ago with a morning of talks to set the context and give us an idea of what we will be doing and what will be expected of us. I was impressed with the way Kersten England (our chief executive) spoke, incorporating our New Deal objectives into all that she said without over-emphasising the four specific New Deal work streams. Those work streams underpin the fabric of all that we do, and that came across in the way Kersten spoke.
Two things in particular from Kersten’s talk really struck me:
- A quote from an economist who believes we are closer to the next recession then we are to the last recession.
- Due to the unprecedented nature of the shift in funding for local government, there is no guarantee that by 2020 the Council will still directly provide any services.
When taken together, those two things highlight how important strong leadership will be over the coming years. What form that leadership will take, and where it will come from – well, that is to be seen, and is partly why we’re on this programme.
Things I learnt during that opening event include:
- I’m capable of succeeding
- we have a large degree of autonomy about how we progress
- there are big inequalities both in the Council and in the district
- I need commercial and strategic awareness
- we need to look to tomorrow. Today has already gone. (and I don’t mean we should procrastinate!)
- the Future Leaders Programme is not simply a receipt of information
- I need to pay more attention to what those around me think and feel
- I’m going to be busy!
The 40 of us on the programme have been split into two cohorts of 20. Each group has been tasked with forming a shadow Corporate Management Team (CMT) by 24 February. That shadow CMT will exist for the duration of the programme, and will no doubt dominate the learning process.
It’s been an intriguing first week working with my group of 20, most of whom I didn’t previously know. How do we communicate? Can we all meet up? How do we form a fair, functional, shadow CMT when we have twice as many people than the actual CMT we are shadowing? With a relatively blank slate, what ideas can we come up with? Who are we all, even?
These are all challenges we are dealing with in these early days. And a question for me personally, am I taking too much control and setting an unhealthy precedent? I’ve tried to be proactive, get the ball rolling with how we communicate (I’ve set up a Slack team) and tried to help arrange when we all meet (using a Doodle meeting scheduler). I hope the rest of my group will tell me if I’ve come across as too controlling in these early exchanges. I’m sure they will me. It is their interest, and mine, as Future Leaders for them to do so.
We’ve been asked to do regular vlogs about our experiences of the Future Leaders Programme. Here’s my first: